ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - On July 8, 2009, a federal judge Wednesday sentenced once-prominent architect Marc Schiff to one year and one day in prison for his role in skimming more than $4 million from construction of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse.
The sentencing closes the book on the corruption case against eight defendants that sent public officials including former state Sen. Manny Aragón to prison.
Schiff's lawyers claimed prosecutors promised to recommend probation in exchange for a guilty plea to conspiracy and mail fraud charges. Instead Schiff has two months to report to federal prison.
Schiff admitted he submitted phony invoices and sent money from his architecture firm to some of the other participants in the kickback scheme.
In court Wednesday Schiff said the allegations were all true adding that he was "weak, scared, stupid, and should have walked away."
Schiff said he was dragged into the scheme and took part fearing his architecture firm would lose the courthouse contract.
Schiff's lawyers called the sentence fair but said the believe the architect should have received probation.
"Mark is one of thousands of legitimate New Mexico businessmen that has been caught up in this culture of corruption by government officials," defense attorney Rob Perry said after the sentencing. "It's unfortunate that he got sucked in and used and extorted by these folks, but he's accepted responsibility and made amends for his involvement in the case."
Schiff recently moved to Oregon and he will likely serve his time in a federal prison there. He also has to pay $678,000 in restitution.
The players in the scheme were:
- Manny Aragón, former state senator and president pro tempore of the Senate. He helped secure extra funding for the project which the Legislature approved in 1998 and pocketed kickbacks. He was sentenced last month to 5 1/2 years in prison and nearly $2 million in fines and restitution.
- Former Metro Court Administrator Toby Martinez, the inside man who approved the bogus invoices. He was sentenced to nearly 67 months in prison and $2.7 million in restitution.
- Sandra Mata Martinez, Toby Martinez's wife, who pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony after admitting she knew about the scam but did not report it. A front company set up in her name acted as a conduit for some of the kickbacks. She was sentenced to five years of probation and $106,000 in restitution.
- Ken Schultz, mayor of Albuquerque from 1985-89, who became a legislative lobbyist and admitted acting as a bagman delivering some of the cash kickbacks. He received five years of probation and has moved to Nevada.
- Marc Schiff, architect on numerous public and private projects who admitted submitting phony vouchers and paying kickbacks. He was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison and $678,000 in restitution.
- Raul Parra, a business owner whose contract to install audio video systems in the courthouse became the source of much of the skimmed loot. The scheme began falling apart when a business dispute between Parra and his partner went to court with the partner alleging Parra was paying kickbacks. A judge sentenced Parra to 46 months in prison and $611,000 in fines and restitution.
- Michael Murphy, who came into the construction process as project manager late in the game and admitted he received an illegal payment of $20,000. Johnson sentenced Murphy to two years of supervised probation and $20,000 in restitution.
- Manuel Guara, a subcontractor working with Parra's company on the courthouse project. He was sentenced to six months of home confinement with an electronic monitoring device to be followed by three years of probation.
All the defendants except Sandra Martinez pleaded guilty to mail fraud and conspiracy.
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